Secrets to Learning from CEOs: The 5-Hour Rule

The world’s billionaires are no different from you and me, but if their businesses and personal successes hint at anything, it’s the fact that they tend to do things differently. Are they keeping a secret? Are they superhuman? Are they “magical”?

You might be wondering, what makes CEOs a cut above the rest? For starters, they don’t procrastinate and they employ effective techniques that can make them learn and work faster. Here’s how they do it.

They learn new things using the 5-hour rule.

The first quality that most CEOs and Forbes-listers tend to possess is their innate interest in learning new things and acquiring new skills. They are not afraid to learn something new, and even with millions in the bank or if they’ve been out of school for years at this point, they maintain their childlike wonder when met with new concepts or ideas. If you’ve wondered why CEOs and entrepreneurs look like they’re always ahead of the pack, the main reason is that they strive to never get behind. Naturally, one way to get ahead is to know what other people are learning and to listen to trends before you are too late.

In several interviews, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Warren Buffett, and many others have expressed their interest in continuously building their knowledge. The “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett, has expressed his love for learning when he said this now-famous quote, “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Bill Gates, on the other hand, reads one book every week. That may not be comparable to Warren Buffett’s habits, but the gist here is that even the world’s richest men enjoy learning and strive to make it a habit.

For more popular personalities like Oprah, learning is more of a fixed 5-hour weekly dedication. The world-famous host has explained that her schedules have often kept her from enjoying her weekends, but she never makes an excuse to not learn. In fact, she ensures that 5 hours of her week are spent on learning something new.

To summarize, if you want to build habits that the world’s richest men and women share, make sure to adopt a love for learning and an interest in continuously building your skillset. That being said, embrace reading and make it a habit. To help you get through the first few pages of a book, make yourself a special learning desk or space at home. Make sure it is well-lit, perhaps install a reading desk lamp so you can read comfortably, and start off with books that are more attuned to your personal interests.

School is not the only place where you learn.

To support the points above, it is also important to understand that schools will only teach you the basics of learning or the methods which you can use to acquire more information, but they should-- and they will never-- give you all of the information you need in the world. Essentially, schools are there so you will learn how to learn. If anything, nothing is more valuable than having the right set of skills for acquiring knowledge and information. Once you know how to get the knowledge you need, you can pretty grasp ideas within or outside the school.

Take note that you will probably only be spending the first 20 years of your life in an educational institution and the rest of it will be spent outside of it. There’s no reason why you should forget the skills of learning the moment you graduate. Instead, take them with you and improve your learning techniques. Elon Musk has long been a strong supporter of alternative educational instruction, one that focuses on teaching learners how to be better learners. His school in LA, which was secretly built in 2014, propagates this idea along with many other innovative schools of thought.

They are not afraid to try.

Self-doubt is often the only thing that is keeping you from succeeding. Do not make it a constant in your life. If there is anything we can learn from CEOs and other successful individuals, it’s this: failure and success often go hand in hand. You will not always succeed in every venture-- and that’s okay, what matters is that you do not quit. To reiterate, do not quit. If you are an overthinker, allow your mind to think of the possibilities ahead, but never hold back and end your endeavours before you’ve even started. Most CEOs and successful entrepreneurs have had their fair share of failures and misfortunes. 

Always think it’s the first day of your life for doing anything.

Everyone, no matter how successful, will always experience what is commonly referred to as a professional plateau. It is that period in your life where you may feel you’ve exerted just about every inch of your energy into an endeavour, and you are neither growing nor falling backwards. It might seem like a comfortable place to be in, but this plateau can cave easily. Don’t build plateaus in your life; build mountains.

Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, deals with plateaus by always considering every day of running his business as Day 1. We tend to show our best performance on Day 1, but over time, we might feel like we’re doing our best and there’s no point in maintaining that momentum. In his 2017 Amazon address, he encourages his team, as well as other entrepreneurs to think like it’s their first day on the job. Employ the same mindset to inspire yourself to steer clear of these dangerous professional plateaus.